orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

Total Pageviews

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Of preserving

Well just to finish off July here another post. It seemed a long month this time, a lot happening. It really has become too hot to do any serious work on the land and cycling over has become a torture. No matter how early you start, you can't escape the heat. Cycling over to Arcola takes nearly an hour and watering all 18 terraces takes 2. The only way to this sensibly by the way is, by Susan sitting back in the shade operating the tap, whilst I strip to my underpants and hold the hose over my head every now and then.

By the time we've finished that and picked the day's harvest (which puts an extra 10kg onto the back of my bike to lug up our hill again), it's at best late-morning or even lunchtime, and the sun beats down mercilessly. No time to rest though, as we have to do something with all our harvest, before it all goes off. So the afternoons are spent over a hot oven preserving everything: tomato sauce, gherkins in vinegar, green beans in brine, tomato chutney, courgettes under oil, etc. So we're being kept busy enough.

On the side I try and organise this new wine tasting business and post on this blog. So enough for today, it's time for some festas this weekend and some relaxation. I'll tell you all about that in August.

Here a continuation of a series I have started some 2 years ago of amusingly shaped vegetables:

Part 2: the Tomato

Part 3 the cucumber.

This massive thing had escaped my attention by hiding under some leaves, so it got rather bigger than it should have been. Now, before you even thinks about it, I'll censor any rude jokes concerning cucumbers and my wife!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Me Tarzan...

Went for the first time in a while to George's plot in Villa. With one thing and another we had neglected it a bit recently, so we came with a newly serviced strimmer, but somehow our general repair man Franco seems to be better with bicycles than power tools. I got it started, but it died on me again within a minute or so, so unfortunately we've still not got around tidying up around there.

To our surprise there were still some yellow plums there though (ours had finished a month ago), so we picked them and made jam and a plum cake. While we were there I could not miss out on a refreshing dip in the icy cold river that flows alongside the plot though...

Here comes Tarzan!




Thursday, 23 July 2009

Of novel plants, wine tastings & Paganini

Ladies & Gentlemen, boys and girls, dear pets,
may I proudly present to you a world first: The Melumber! As you can see a cucumber and on the top of the plant and a little lower a baby melon. Must get that plant patented!
Joking aside, things on our land are doing extremely well. The weather during June and July has been almost perfect for farming: warm at times hot, with the odd sprinkling of rain inbetween, just enough, so that we did not have to water quite on a daily basis, but not enough to cause problems with rot. In addition here near the coast, we almost always have a pleasant cooling breeze.
As a result we are having bumper crops of tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, yesterday the first ripe melon, green beans, yellow peppers, aubergines etc. We have harvested the first crop of our 'two-season' fig tree and made something a little different with it this time, a fig salsa. I've got the recipe of the Italy Magazine Forum or rather community as they like to call themselves now, although modified it slightly. Goes well with meat. Here's the link to the recipe: http://www.italymag.co.uk/community/post/fig-salsa. Unfortunately the quantities are in American measurements, which I never quite understand.
I have also become quite innovative in the use of courgettes, being constantly on the look for recipes to work our way through tons of the stuff. Here's one for a courgettes soup:
olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
a tbsp each of finely chopped fresh rosemary & sage
1kg courgettes
the corn of 2 sweetcorn cobs or 1 tin of sweetcorn
200ml cream
salt & pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and lightly saute the onion, garlic & herbs until soft.
  2. Add the courgettes and sweetcorn and heat through, then add 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until well soft.
  3. Leave to cool for a bit and puree the mixture, or pass through a tomato mill or colander to remove the larger seeds and any possible stringy bits.
  4. Add the cream and reheat gently. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

On the wine tasting front there have been some developments too. I will now be working together with the Strada del Vino dei Colli di Candia e di Lunigiana. I know a bit of a mouthful. They are a group of wineries from the province of Massa-Carrara at the northern tip of Tuscany who have joined up into a wine route for tourists. They will help me find work and I will help them promote their wines. Their link is: http://www.stradadelvinoms.it/.

On Tuesday we had a kind of test event with the local wine club that I run. We visited the winery of Pier Paolo Lorieri (http://www.scurtarola.com/), the president of the Strada del Vino, for a wine tasting of some white wines of the region. His winery is beautifully situated above the town of Massa with sweeping views over the Versilia coast line.

The tasting really showed the variety of wines produced in this small region. Each wine was very different and individual. Apart from wines made entirely or predominantly from Vermentino, we tasted a rare example of a single varietal Albarola, which normally is a minor blending partner of Vermentino in this region as well as more famously in the Cinque Terre. We also tasted a wine made from a blend of the rare and unusual local varieties Durella and Luadga.
Anyone wanting to know more about the wine tastings I do please check out my web-site and pass it on to anyone who may be interested:

Other than that we had a couple more events in the village. On Monday night some 150 odd people from in and around the village went for a night walk to the nearby ruins of Castello della Brina. Little is known about this castle and excavations are ongoing. A professor from Pisa Universty gave a talk on it's history as far as it is known, which was fascinating. It now lies oddly isolated on the Via Francigena footpath towards Sarzana, but appears to have been a major settlement during it's heyday between the 8th to the 11th century. It was destroyed around 1300, and the attackers really seemed to bear a grudge, because they raised the place to the ground. In the absence of dynamite the knocked holes into the bases of the solid stone buildings and the lookout tower, stacked wood into them and set fire to it. The heat then produced cracks in the stonework, which then collapsed. This practise apparently was quite common in Britain, but is almost unique in continental Europe.

Anyway the reason for the walk was actually to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and some anorak gave a very boring presentation on that subject. Is just me who is thoroughly bored by the subject? What's the point of going to the moon, if we've got so much to do on our own planet, saving it for a start!

Tuesday night there was a chamber music concert in the inner court of our house as part of a Paganini festival. A young violinist, Francesca Dego and a pianist, Francesca Leonardi, played works by Beethoven, Schubert and Paganini. The atmosphere as usual was magical, the performances were impressive and the acoustics in our court yard is great for this style of music.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Long tome no hear...

Sorry it's been a while, lots has happened since the last post. I'm not trying to come up with excuses, but... Well first of all I was away for a few days at the end of June, beginning of July. Had to take the car to Germany for an MOT. Good news it has passed, bad news it wasn't cheap. I'd rather do wothout motorised transport, but can't quite do without it.

Well then as soon as I had returned we were struck by lightning, which melted my computer monitor and the old modem. I managed to get an old monitor off someone for nothing, but it wasn't worth replacing the modem as we were waiting for a new telephone line from Fastweb with a proper broadband connection at last! Yes we have turned our backs on Telecom, despite warnings from people that you'll never know what service you will be getting with these people. Well I reckoned it couldn't get any worse, and so far so good.

So today a premier for this blog: A moving picture with sound! Last night was the annual Musicalmangiando event in our village, a festa with, as the name suggests, there's food and music, but also art and general merryment. The music was supposed to be supplied by our neighbour Mauro and his band Tandarandan, but for some reason this was changed by the organisers. Instead we had fire jugglers and our friend Silvio with some mates playing Rennaissance music. That's what you can hear and see a sample of above if you have a fast enough internet connection.

The food was as usual the Cusina d'Sa' Steu', the cuisine of Santo Stefano, although Remo, the brains behind promoting the local specialities is getting on a bit and semi-retired, so I felt that the standards were slipping a wee bit. For a start quantities weren't as gut-splitting as usual. Mind you when I mentioned that after the desserts, someone found me another plate of roast rabbit. The other good thing was of course that the man pouring the grappa afterwards gave Susan and me an extra helping calling us the number one and two supporters of the Cusina d'Sa' Steu'. Besides he said, anyone as mad as us riding our bikes up and down our hill is probably in need of an extra helping of strong liquor...

Below you see the antipasti being served on the way up from the main piazza:

And then under the last rays of sunshine we settled down for the main courses on the little piazza in fron of our house. In the centre of the picture with her purple back to us and the bare arms is Susan and opposite her our lovely neighbours Susannah and Marco.

Other updates as to what happened on the land etc. coming up in the next few days.